'Lupin': Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin, Lupin III and the lawsuit that gave rise to Edgar de la Cambriole
How did manga illustrator Monkey Punch change his character's name and what was the lawsuit's main gripe?
Netflix's 'Lupin' sees a young janitor stumble into wealth and fortune after being inspired by the stories of famed French Gentleman Thief, Arsène Lupin. This isn't the first series to feature a character inspired by Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin instead of featuring the character himself - but unlike Netflix's series, the anime 'Lupin III' had to do a lot of work to avoid copyright infringement. While the character Arsène Lupin is now public domain, for a very long time, this was not the case at all, and Manga illustrator Monkey Punch got into a lot of trouble for using the name.
The original Arsène Lupin was created by a French writer named Maurice Leblanc. The writer was not unknown for a copyright violation or two himself, as he was forced to change "Sherlock Holmes" to "Herlock Sholmes" after writing a story where Holms and Lupin met. When manga illustrator and writer Monkey Punch created Lupin III, he thought that he had successfully gotten around copyright issues by creating a character who was not Arsène Lupin, but instead his grandson of the same name, inspired by his grandfather's exploits. In addition, Lupin III, as he was known, did not share any of his granfather's signature look - no top hat, no monocle, no jeweled cane or even a rugged stubble. Nevertheless, the estate of Maurice Leblanc took issue with the series once it started gaining popularity, and as a result Monkey Punch was required to change the character's name.
In Japan, Lupin was now called "Rupan" or "Wolf", while French translations changed the name to "Edgar de la Cambriole" - which translates to "Edgar of Burglary." This state of affairs changed again, however, in 2021, when Arsène Lupin became public doman due to it beign 70 years after his creator's death with no proper license renewal. Since then, Monkey Punch has restored the name 'Lupin' to the manga and the anime, and last year saw the release of 3D film 'Lupin III: The First.' Now, much like Sherlock Holmes, anyone is free to use Arsène Lupin as a character in their stories - provided, of course, the stories are distributed in a country that follows the rule of the shorter term.
'Lupin' releases on Netflix on January 8, 2021.